Rain did not dampen the spirits of the 10,000 people who attended the annual pride parade Saturday.
The North Carolina Pride Parade, which began more than two decades ago in order to highlight LGBT life in state, kicked off at the entrance to Duke’s East Campus. The parade’s participants began lining up at 12:45 p.m.—15 minutes before the event began—to prepare for the lively festivities that attracted both Duke students and other Durham residents.
Although it was drizzling throughout the parade, event organizers remained unfazed given that last year it began raining midway through the procession, said Paul Cravth, a parade organizer.
In fact, the rain added color to the parade as spectators and marchers alike whipped out rainbow-patterned umbrellas.
Music kept the parade from getting too somber as several decked out men and women played big band tunes on their brass instruments. Behind them, a DJ blasted music from the back of a pickup truck and another car played recent Top 40 hits.
One of the most unique musical acts belonged to the Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, a local performance group.
“We’re a ‘free Pussy Riot’ float,” explained one of the women, whose face was swathed in a balaclava.
Pussy Riot is a Russian punk band that was recently sentenced to two years in prison for an anti-Putin song. The women, dressed in black balaclavas and single-colored dresses, blared the song in question from the back of their truck and danced as they made their way down the parade line.
They were not the only groups who arrived in costume. Several young men on rollerblades wore only multicolored Speedos and colorful headdresses, a group walked by in street clothes and brightly colored lucha libre masks, two topless girls wore duct tape X’s over their breasts and a tall man in a bright red wig and polka dot dress twirled his umbrella and danced. The LGBT rainbow was everywhere, whether on flags, shirts, ties or eye shadow.
One transgendered woman from Fayetteville named Olivia wore a rainbow striped strapless floor-length dress covered in rainbow feathers and accented with diamond costume jewelry and a rainbow feather wig.
“Thank God for eBay,” she said.
It was her first time attending the event in a while, but 10 years ago she was in the parade as the LGBT Ms. Fayetteville.
Heavily involved in her community, she is currently trying to get the first ever LGBT float in the Fayetteville Christmas Parade.
“The trans community is often kept in the background and really needs someone to speak out for them,” she said. “My parents basically disowned me because they didn’t take the time to understand.”
She hopes that she can change at least one boy’s life with her efforts.
The event brought together Duke students and Durham community groups. Duke’s delegation, one of the largest in attendance, sported “Love=Love” shirts as they whooped and cheered on their two floats. One student even had a rainbow Canadian flag draped over his shoulders.
A group of young women on unicycles wore shirts that read “Homo Cycle.”
“It’s a play on ‘uni’ and ‘homo,’” explained Michelle Reed, one of the women on unicycles. “Our goal was to learn to ride the unicycle for this parade.”
She said they had been practicing since early January.
Behind them, the Asian Queers and Allies had festooned a compact car with flowers and rainbow signs. A member of the group, Nandini Sen, explained that the group was mostly “queers” from south Asia, though it was open to all Asians.
“It’s more than gay pride, it’s about being a minority inside a minority,” Sen said. “We want to be heard and seen.”
On the lawn to the right of the East Campus entrance, various groups had set up pavilions and tents. Political groups, ranging from the Durham People’s Alliance, known for their “Another Family Against Amendment One” signs, the American Association of Retired Persons, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, to delegations for local politicians such as Lee Storrow, Lydia Lavelle and Wendy Jacobs, also attended the event. There were also many churches advertising their inclusiveness, next to people hawking rainbow-patterned merchandise.
At 1 p.m, the parade began to slowly progress down the street, with Durham police officers directing the flow of floats and people. Main Street was lined with spectators three rows deep, and they cheered until the last float wound out of sight.